Issue 59 / Multitalented Indie Artist Tara Kannangara Takes Us Into the Jazz Scene

Multitalented Indie Artist Tara Kannangara Takes Us Into the Jazz Scene

Aug 12, 2016

With the release of her debut album, Some Version of the Truth, groove indie jazz sensation Tara Kannangara has caused quite the stir. The singer/songwriter can play the trumpet and has the voice to match.

It’s the first time I’m stepping into the Royal Conservatory of Music in downtown Toronto. Truly fitting for whom I was about to sit with today; the 2016 Juno Award nominated trumpeter and vocalist Tara Kannangara.

Not a bad feat for her first album and one that was considered an experiment and labour for the love of the craft. “The nomination was a total surprise. I love our record,” says Kannangara. “The thing about it, it was almost an experiment. We didn't have a lot of money, we just had the music and ourselves and all of us cared about it enough that we were willing to put in the work.”

Born in Chilliwack, British Columbia, the Canadian Sri Lankan-born musician reminisces about growing up to the sounds of classical music being played in her household. “I was interested in music because my parents introduced me to classical music when I was a kid. They played records at home,” she says. “They don't really have any background in music. They've just loved it. I [think] they also heard studies that listening to Mozart makes you smart so they wanted their child to be smart and do anything they could possible do to enrich my life."

Kannangara studied classical piano in her early years and continued her studies into high school where she picked up and concentrated on the classical trumpet and grew interested in vocals. This led her to pursue the genre on a theoretical level at the University of Victoria. But it was during her studies when she discovered her true love, Jazz. “When I was at the University of Victoria, at that point in time I really thought I would be a classical musician so I was doing both voice and trumpet, definitely within the classical realm,” she explains. “I was prepping my mind maybe one day I will do opera and as great as my training was and much as I enjoyed it I knew it wasn't totally the right thing for me.”

Tara Kannangara 
Photo Credit: Tara Kannangara

Her love of creating music continued to develop. “I was more interested in creating music of my own. And while people do [this] in classical music, it's not as easy to get into writing when you're classical,” she says. In what she describes as a “spur of moment” decision, Kannangara packed up and moved to Toronto to study jazz at the University of Toronto and honed her skills as a performer and songwriter.

When you listen to her play the trumpet you are immediately wrapped into the soothing tones of the complex instrument, her vocals are simplistic yet beautifully arranged. She is lauded for her mature creative vision and her ability to handle both fluently. She describes her sound as a “groove based indie jazz with elements of melodic indie pop meshed with jazz grooves.”

Tara Kannangara
Photo Credit: Tara Kannangara

Kannangara has put her stamp on the North American scene and has performed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. with a group of jazz artists paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. She’s also worked with some of the best in the industry like Grammy-nominated Theo Bleckmann, Tim Hagans and Grammy award-winner Esperanza Spaulding, whom she credits as her inspiration in how she’s command respect in a male dominated industry. 

“With [Esperanza] one of the most fascinating things to witness was how she dealt with so many people looking at her and hearing what she did [and] how difficult that is because in jazz it's mostly white guys," Kannangara says, “Not be all social political — when a woman of colour comes into the forefront and really makes a statement about what they do, people look really hard at you. In watching that, I really was like wow! If you do this, [it’s] what's going to happen and you need to deal with it with grace and strength and not be a pushover.”

Grammy Award-winning singer and bassist/cellist Esparanza Spaulding
Photo Credit: 

And a pushover she is not, Kannangara’s group has been awarded the 2016 Julian Award for excellence in emerging Canadian jazz artists, the Sting Ray Rising Star Award at the TD Montreal Jazz Festival and a 2016 Juno nomination for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year for her debut album Some Version Of The Truth.

While this is just the beginning for the songstress/musician she has a much bigger vision for her group. “I see this vision for me and my group, where we're do more mainstream stuff, as much as I love jazz I think the type of music that we do can be meant for so many type of genres,” says Kannangara. So, I think we just want to be on the international stage."

Main Photo Credit: Tara Kannangara

Tessa Johnson


Tessa (@tessajstyle) holds a diploma in Fashion Business Management from George Brown College and has Fashion Coordination and Styling certification from Ryerson University. She has been ANOKHI Magazine’s Fashion Editor for the last four years covering the runways from Toronto to India. Her love...


Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter for all of the latest news, articles, and videos delivered directly to your inbox each day!

  • PLEASE NOTE: Some of the contents of the newsletter may not be suitable for minors.

    Join A Community That Cares About What Matters To You!

    We Fearlessly Celebrate Our

    Desi Identity!